Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet has agreed to recommend to full Council its proposed budget and council tax rates for 2023/24.
However the proposed budget and council tax rates are subject to further scrutiny by the Finance and Resources Select Committee and agreement by Council.
The budget has been drawn up against a backdrop of global economic turbulence and uncertainty. High inflation driven by the war in Ukraine and extra demands on the council’s services are adding an extra £63 million in costs for next year before a penny of next year’s budget is even spent.
It means the council is proposing a 2.99% rise in the base rate of council tax. This is set against an increase in inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index of over 10%. In addition, it is planning to take up the Government’s proposal for a Social Care Precept of 2%, meaning a total rise of 4.99% in bills. The Cabinet were very aware that helping relieve pressures in social care is fundamental to helping the NHS during the winter peak in demand.
This would mean a rise in council tax of £1.61 per week for the average home (Band D) in Buckinghamshire.
The budget proposals also outline which areas the council is allocating funding for and how much, after nearly 2,000 residents fed in their views on the budget plans. This includes:
- More than £125 million fixing and maintaining roads.
- Nearly £143 million for schools improvements.
- £20 million on housing and tackling homelessness.
- More than £14 million to tackle Climate Change and prevent flooding.
- Investing more than £20 million in our waste and recycling facilities.
The budget report considered by Cabinet includes detail about how the Covid-19 pandemic and global factors have created considerable extra pressures on the budget this year. There have been many more people needing support and social care from the council following the pandemic; more children and families are facing need and more adults are receiving social care – 3% more in a year. The economic uncertainty and high inflation also mean the council’s own costs are much higher too across the piece, whether that’s the cost of materials to fix and build roads, energy costs or the cost of providing social care services.
The council is, however, in a stable and positive financial position compared to many other local authorities – Buckinghamshire Council is able to present a balanced budget which includes major spend on services residents have told us that they want us to focus on. Importantly, we are continuing to achieve savings from becoming a single unitary authority in 2020. The council is finding a total of £10 million in savings across all departments to balance the books in 2023/24.
Councillor Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, said: ‘This is an incredibly challenging climate to set our budget in. We do not want to put up council tax, but the stark reality is that we simply cannot balance next year’s budget without doing so. Last year’s council tax increase was well below inflation and now, with inflation running at more than 10%, even with substantial savings, this is the only way we can pay for the services we provide whilst shielding residents from the bulk of the cost increases.
While, after twelve years of making savings, there are no more easy efficiencies to make, we are looking across every aspect of the council’s work to see where we can save money to help fund our proposed spending for 2023/24. I am determined that we will continue to be a very efficient, value for money council. While it’s difficult proposing a 4.99% council tax rise, I am still pleased that we are in a much stronger financial position than many other councils around us.
We have seen a rise in the number of councils issuing what are known as ‘Section 114 notices’ – where they are simply unable to set a balanced budget. We are not in that situation here in Buckinghamshire and I’m pleased that we can still set aside spend on the areas our residents have told us matter most to them such as roads, drains and helping the most disadvantaged within the 23/24 plans.‘
Nearly 2000 residents fed into the consultation on these budget plans and these views have been reflected in the proposals in the council’s Revenue and Capital Programmes. Residents will have further opportunity to respond to the overall budget plans when these proposals are scrutinised by the cross-party Budget Scrutiny Inquiry Task and Finish Group during the week commencing January 9th 2023. Residents can email questions and comments on the budget and these will be considered during these meetings.
Details of the scrutiny meetings and how to view them are available at the Buckinghamshire Council online meetings calendar. Residents who want a question asked during this process can submit their questions via email to [email protected] by 9.00am of the morning of the meeting that will discuss the area the question is about.
Following the scrutiny process, the final budget will be agreed during February 2023, ready to implement on Saturday 1st April 2023.
*Source of article : Press release from Buckinghamshire Council.